The country is not divided and Samoa is peaceful according to the Human Rights Protection Party’s Deputy Leader, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo.
The statement was made during an interview on Live Talk with Canada this week, where Fonotoe disagreed with his interviewer, Pulotu Canada, for stating that Samoa was facing hard times and the country was divided over the political stand-off between HRPP and FAST since the April 9th general elections.
“No that’s wrong,” interjected Fonotoe.
“The nation is not divided, the country is not divided,” Fonotoe told Pulotu on a live broadcast connecting from Melbourne, Australia.
“Samoa is peaceful”.
Fonotoe went on to say that FAST party leader Hon Fiame Naomi Mataafa had rejected an HRPP proposal to call a truce and withdraw the 28 election petitions and counter petitions, now before the Courts.
The removal of all election petitions would mean Article 44 can be activated and Parliament would convene with 26-26 FAST:HRPP since Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau of HRPP would be formally appointed as the 6th woman. That would force a return to the polls for Samoa.
Prime Minister-Elect Fiame Naomi has, however, repeatedly stated that there is no need to return the country to the polls because FAST has won the April 9th general elections by a one seat majority of 26-25.
Fonotoe said their proposal was a way to satisfy the Court of Appeal’s decision since the decision states the 6th woman does not get to be decided until all petions are done and any by-elections finalised.
“A proposal was brought to Fiame as a way forward to satisfy the Court of Appeal’s decision for both parties to withdraw all election petitions before the Court….. that would then trigger the Article 44 the 10 per cent requirement, then Parliament could convene, form a government, and then move forward”, said Fonotoe.
“But that proposal was not accepted by Fiame and FAST Party, they did not accept our say to withdraw petitions from the Court,” he said.
The stand-off between HRPP and FAST has been further entrenched by two interpretations of the Court of Appeal’s decision. The decision does not refer to the convening of Parliament. The appeal dealt with the interpretation of Article 44 and the question of whether Aliimalemanu Alofa’s appointment as the 6th woman was lawful. There are two previous Court judgements which do specifically state Parliament must convene by the 45th day.
Fonotoe’s interpretation of the Court of Appeal’s Judgment is that Parliament cannot convene without the 6th Woman.
“If Parliament for example convenes tomorrow, that would be unconstitutional because we cannot convene Parliament with only five women,” said Fonote.
“The Court of Appeal has pronounced that we need six women and to satisfy the Constitution we need six women.”
However, in a press statement following this week’s talks, Fiame disagrees with the HRPP interpretation and says the Court decision is not retrospective and can only be for future elections as the writ of appointment of the elected members was given under the hand of the Head of State dated 16 April 2021.
“The Court of Appeal has already ruled on this matter and the appointment of the 6th woman member being declared void further confirms FAST holds the majority of 26 seats to HRPP’s 25 following the 9th April general elections”, states the FAST Leader.
Fiame says Parliament needs to be convened with the 51 Members of Parliament, already elected by their respective constituencies.
The FAST leader adds their elected members were sworn in on the 24th of May 2021, with a Speaker and Deputy Speaker, as well as an appointed Cabinet now ready to govern the country.
Himself a lawyer, Fonotoe disagreed when that was put to him by Pulotu Canada, saying Samoa does not have a Prime Minister-Elect, and that HRPPs current stance is in line with the rule of law.
“Right now we are just following what the Court of Appeal was saying in their judgment, we are letting the law taking its course, until all those petitions have been dealt with and heard then we can trigger the Article 44 and bring in that extra woman and move on.”
Fonotoe also added that the calculations had been done by the Electoral Commissioner and the 6th woman was an HRPP candidate.
Fonotoe was also asked by Pulotu what he thought of non-elected Ministers who are still in Office overseeing Ministries and getting paid.
“These Ministers are lawfully occupying those positions under the constitution because they are allowed to continue on as provided for under constitution”, explained Fontoe.
It has been 9 weeks since Samoa went to the polls. Following a second round of negotiations this week, an impasse was reached as the two political parties insist on different interpretations of the latest Court of Appeal decision.
Since the April 9th general election the war of words on public forums and social media sites has led to hundreds of public comments that aim to defame, undermine and ruin the reputations of so many individuals including members of the Judiciary, Party Leaders, Elected Members, Fallen MPs and Caretaker Government Officials. Legal Counsels arguing cases and members of the media have also been ridiculed and abused by those showing support for one side or the other of Samoa’s political crisis.